Madballs, Weird Balls, Super Bouncing Weird Balls, Monster Balls, Blurp Balls, Krazy Balls, Freakballs, Squirt Devils and other nameless imitations.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Journey Into the Unknown

"No Comment"

The world of Madball imitations is seemingly limitless and ranges from disgustingly gorgeous to dreadfully abysmal. Lovingly designed creeps like Weird Balls, Blurp Balls and Wacki Balls may lack originality but make up for it in detail and style. Then there's the bottom of the barrel dudes like Super Bouncing Weird Balls and Foul Balls that were obviously churned out to make a quick buck but are worth while for their clumsy awfulness.

As you get deeper into the world of monster face ballery, you realize there are some fakes out there, that just don't have names. They're not part of any series and were molded and remolded, packaged and repackaged, painted and repainted a million times. They have no brand name or individual names, but have been dubbed "Sadballs". The attributes they share are that they're the general size and shape of Madballs, they're all made of soft inflatable rubber, they're limited to 3-4 colors, and they usually have "Taiwan" stamped on their underside.

Many of them are also packaged similarly in a plastic bag stapled to a card, but the cards vary from ball to ball. In fact some of the exact same balls have been packed with different cards or on the same cards but made with different colored plastic.
While there are a dozens of these nameless dudes there are six that are almost as recognizable as Madballs themselves and have even been bootlegged and imitated.

First up is one of my favorites. Dubbed "Blood Bulge" at Weirdo Toys (I really like the names Justin gave them so I'm sticking with them), this purple dude is a grotesque....thing. Maybe a vampire skull but probably just a lazy attempt at a monster, Blood Bulge at least isn't a direct knock off of a particular Madball. His skull(ish) nose and cracked back side contrast with his fangs and gore filled mouth. Let's not skim over that.
His features may be pretty simplistic but that mouth is really highly detailed and makes him look like he's been chowing down on disgusting viscera. That combined with that disgusting bulgy eye makes him on of the grossest rip offs I've ever encountered.
Even though the Ugly Ball is inspired by Skull Face and Evel Kneival is reminiscent of Dust Brain, there was some minor attempt to redesign them. Not well, mind you, but redesigned nontheless. "Lace Face" on the other hand, is a stolen mold. I doubt there was espionage in the world of monster faced balls involving men in black masks jumping over lasers to get to the secret Madball sculpts, but someone definitely remolded this dude directly from Aargh.
The shape of the mouth, the pig nose, the furrowed brow and the the stitches are all directly taken from Aargh. The ONLY difference, aside from the paint job, is that Lace Face has a smaller eye, while Aargh's non-bugged eye is squinted shut. It's odd because Aargh is one of my least favorite Madballs, but tends to be one of the most imitated.
"Evil Knievel" is one of the more baffling of the Sadballs. I think he's supposed to be wrapped up like he's hurt as opposed to mummified, but he does still look like Dust Brain.

Now why he's wrapped up is a different question. The fangs poking out and the blue skin suggest that he's a vampire, so maybe he's got a really bad sunburn? Or he's a tooth daredevil that's had a run of bad luck. Very similar to Blood Bulge and the Ugly Ball, this dude doesn't have a lot of detail, but he is a cool specimen of 80's fakery.
This one is my absolute favorite and I've often wondered why there weren't more devilish Madball rip offs. It seems like such an obvious monster figure. The sculpt on this demon is a bit different from the others. While it shares the simplicity of them, it's a better stylization. The rendered mustache and cracks in the horns help carry the basic nose, teeth and eyes. Along with Blood Bulge "Dirty Devil" is the only truely original Sadball.
Up next is a nerd I've named Broken Brain. He's an odd rendition of Bash Brain just with a Screamin' Meemie face and one eyeball larger than the other. He's not particularly painted or designed very well and his face is uncomplicated except of a few wrinkles but he makes up for it in his exposed brain! It may be the texture of the rubber or the oddly spray painted colors but this gray matter icks me out more so than any Madballs with bust skulls. It reminds me of Hellraiser II when Dr. Channard is performing surgery and talking about labyrinths or Josh's obsession with "maggot brain". Most of these guys are nameless imitations made by faceless companies trying to make a quick buck. This last dude, however, isn't so mysterious. He was a promotional gift released by Nabisco for their Bonkers candy during the height of the Madball craze. There were even nightmarish commercials advertising the "Ugly Ball" with a family that had lifesize Ugly Ball heads! All you had to do was mail in ten Bonkers wrappers and they would ship one to your doorstep. He does share all the other characteristics of Sadballs though.

Aside from his association with human-assaulting candy the Ugly Ball is pretty uninspired. He's a monstrous skull dude with a big red tongue. Kinda boring especially when you compare him to Skull Face who's got awesome flair (I seriously love those keyhole eye sockets)! The nose and teeth are surely lifted from the Madball design, but the rest of him has nothing goin on. I'm not really sure why he doesn't work as well. Most of the vintage Madballs are really simple, but their imitators almost always fall flat. I half expect it from the nameless imitators but from a company like Nabisco that's using a toy for a promotional gimmick? Nothing better?
That said, these ugly buggers are pretty neat and considering the depths that some fakes sink to, these aren't actually THAT bad. I do like these a lot, and maybe my reviews have been a bit harsh. They have a certain budget charm that Krazy Balls are missing.

In conclusion, try to find these guys. They're very odd, hold up fairly well to againg and are some of the more iconic examples of Madball fakery. Some of them go on Ebay for a decent amount but others slip through the cracks and sell for a few bucks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Greetings From Bogarrrhhhtá

"Los Monstruos Del Amor"

Hey dudes and grossos. Sorry, it's been a while since my last post but I was just on vacation in Colombia! Now, you may be asking yourself what that has to do with Mad/Sadballs and I'll tell you. In between museum hopping and Caribbean beach swimming, I dug through some sweet Bogotá flea markets.
I haven't really been toy hunting in other countries because I don't speak any other languages and "How do you get to the vintage toy store" is not in my pantomime repertoire. However, the Lonely Planet Colombia book actually lists two flea markets held every Sunday and mentioned how full of old junk they were! Barely any work for me to do except walk there!
The first one was right off of Carrera 7 near the National Museum (where the mummy section was closed..sigh) and it was a great one. There was some newer bootleg stuff BUT most of it was old crap! We're talking books, clothes, furniture, various parts to various machines, and above LOTS of toys. Of course there was an abundance of Happy Meal toys but a lot of it was old bootleg action figures, vintage toy cars, and so weird homemade stuff.
It was a chance for me to practice the age old art of haggling. And I'm kind of good at it. I bargained my way down on some stuff for Jeanne and also a few gifts for people. It is kind of sad thinking that you're bartering over the equivalent of a 50cents, but it's the way things work.

Our next stop was a flea market just off of Avenida Jiménez near our hostel, Cranky Croc (turns out it was an accurate name. The dude that ran it was a very grumpy Aussie). This one was way more sprawling and filled with the same sorts of stuff. Jeanne was the winner of the day, scoring a metal Hand Of Glory that used to be a belt buckle, a deck of really funny Colombian tarot cards, and a few small frames. Madball collecting has made flea markets a little difficult for me. There was tons of fun stuff but since my focus is so narrow it's way harder to find something I want to buy. The flea markets yielded some gifts for Josh and Justin from Weirdo Toys, but my big find was actually at a small book store on the way to the flea market. Jeanne spotted these nasty things hanging under some old activity books and we swooped in for a closer looks. I'll admit these aren't exactly Madball ripoffs but they are definitely in the same spirit. The first guy really looks Madball inspired and either way they gross me out. Look at the details. Everything is pulpy and covered in veins.
They're also not really cards, even though they come with giant envelopes. They're a single piece of embossed plastic that have snarky sayings on them. Maybe they're intended for anonymous creepy Valentine's Day gifts?

That first dude is really cool. He's riding his bike so fast that his rotten flesh is ripping off his face and appendages! AND from what I can gather he's saying "Cycling Is My Life...So What!". Damn dude! Not only are you a bicycling monster but you have an attitude about it. This guy evokes thoughts of Bash Brain and maybe even Slobulus. I don't know if that was the intention but it seems so.

The next guy is really gross too. He reminds me of the H.P. Lovecraft story The Thing On the Doorstep. Just a rotten pile of sloughing flesh and bubbling innards. Ew. Definitely a zombie, and not so much a Sadball, I wouldn't have included him here if it weren't for his cycling friend who seems to be some sort of Madball imitation. This guy has the same 'tude as his buddy. If my translation is correct (which I'm sure it isn't) he's saying "What Are You Looking At...Idiot!". You're a rotten pile! What do you think we're looking at?!In conclusion, I love junk hunting in other countries. You can find bizarre out of print or discontinued stuff that would never find its way to Ebay. Expect a more Madballs relevant post soon!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Speak Of the Devils

"Horrible Series"

The new line of Madballs re-piqued my interest in monster-shaped balls, but it was actually these awful dudes that got me into the spiraling world of knock offs. Squirt Devil's are available (even still) at every Dollar Tree I've been to, and are surprisingly cool. I still don't know why they're called Squirt Devils though. They are hollow rubber that you can fill with water to "squirt" at friends, but none of them are devils, or even demons. I guess Squirt Monsters didn't sound as good?
If you can make your way past the broken frames and cheap dish soap to the toy aisle in your local Dollar Tree, you may still be deceived by the Squirt Devil packaging. Not a single solitary package is uncrushed. Which makes it look like you're buying a red piece of "fake vomit" with a rip off Madball logo. I still can't figure out why this is. Other items at dollar tree are fine, but ALL of these are squished in the same way. Perhaps the vacuum sealing at the factory worked too well? But fear not intrepid monster ball purchaser, they will resume their spherical form once released from their plastic prison! There is something else misleading about the packaging. The image in the upper right suggests you fill these idiots with water, then they explode when squeezed. Not so. They have one hole in their mouths or eyes that shoots water, not five.

One thing that isn't a lie is the "Horrible Series" moniker. There is another set that is more like the "Sick Series" of Madballs, where you squeeze them and brains or gross pops out of a spot in their heads. Lame. As I've stated before, I hate that kind of tacky dust-collecting rubber. The odd thing is that those are called "Crazy Ballz" and are also in the "Horrible Series". Maybe that is a lie? I don't get it. OK, let's get to the dudes.
First up is the Crack Head (Bash Brain) imitation I've dubbed Frankie. All these sculpts are pretty cool and very well detailed despite very limited paint jobs. Frankie has the protruding eye and exposed brain of Crack Head but also some stitches, sloughing skin, hair, and a sinister grin. The color is almost exactly the same as the revamp of Bash Brain from 07, but he still has his own charm. The designer that sculpted these definitely had his own style.
Sniffles is next on our list. He seems to be the least derivative of all the Devils ans looks more like a straight zombie than any Madball or imitation I've seen. Maybe it's the sunken cheeks and exposed teeth? He's also got a LOT of sloughing skin and general slime. This paint job is particularly bad though. I'm assuming that's an eyebrow and NOT a caterpillar above his left eye but that color makes it hard to tell. And is that a piece of skull or a pyramid coming out of his head (all these shots are face, one side and top of head at the end)?
Bounce-bounce is my favorite. He's also less plagiarized than some of the others and looks like a general monster. I really like the bizarre Klingon-esque ridge atop his head. The screw that goes all the way through is a ice touch as well as his slimey face. Come to think of it, his face reminds me a lot of a Boglin. I like that. I wish there were more Boglins in ball form. Last but not least is the least original of the crew, The Claw. If he doesn't look like Slobulus I don't know who the hell does. The green skin color, the hanging eye, the creepy oddly spaced teeth. The only differences between the two are his really cool soft looking exposed brain and again his lone eyebrow. Seperated at birth? Maybe death. The Claw is lacking the greasy hair that Slobulus has but the similarities are too much to be ignored. Like Slobulus found a pod with an alien that was trying to assimilate him but wasn't quite done. Had it had more time it would've looked and acted just like Slobulus.

In conclusion, though a big smaller than Madballs, and painted poorly, these dudes are a steal for a single dollar! The sculpts are amazing with a lot of really fine details and interesting stylizations. They hold up well because of the rubber they're made from and they do squirt water, if you're into that sort of thing. Buy them!